Take one look at supermarket shelves or news coverage of health topics and it’s clear that anti-inflammatory foods are one of the buzziest food trends of the decade. And science backs up the importance of the matter. But do you know what foods cause inflammation?
“Inflammation is a naturally occurring process in the body, but when it goes wrong or goes on for too long, this is when our body becomes compromised," says Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., owner of Essential Nutrition For You and author of The One One One Diet ($16.10, Amazon). Uncontrolled inflammation plays a role in certain disease states including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even depression.”
Inflammation is a normal part of our body's defense system. It's how our immune system fights injury and infections. Chronic inflammation is a long-term response lasting months or years when the immune system fails to eliminate the problem or that stays active even after healing. Sometimes inflammation is triggered without an apparent reason. If unchecked, white blood cells will attack healthy tissues and organs, causing a chronic inflammatory process. Symptoms include fatigue, anxiety, weight gain, pain, and more-frequent-than-usual infections, but often you might not even notice the slow shift from healthy to inflamed.
Just as there are foods that can trigger your cells to calm down (aka, anti-inflame), there are certain foods that cause inflammation, when consumed frequently and in excess. We asked Batayneh and Rachel Fine, R.D., a registered dietitian and owner of the nutrition counseling firm To The Pointe Nutrition to share some of the worst food offenders.
5 Foods That Cause Inflammation in the Body
The bottom line: “If you have no known medical reason to eliminate foods but feel better when you consume it less often, then put that plan into action,” Batayneh says. “There really isn’t any sort of food prescription on how often you should or shouldn’t eat a specific food. If you’re really suffering from inflammation, then it is advisable to bring more structure—not restriction—in your diet and build a diet and lifestyle that helps to manage your symptoms.”
Listen to your body. If you feel better after two weeks of going gluten-free or after you’ve said “farewell” to fried food, then you might want to find alternative food options to round out your diet.
Now that we’ve covered the foods that cause inflammation, a quick word about foods that may reduce inflammatory risk.
“It’s best to include whole plant-based foods rich in colors,” Fine says. “Think fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, herbs, and spices with an eye toward ‘eating a rainbow’ of produce. Foods high in omega-3 fats such as flaxseeds and wild fish promote antioxidative and anti-inflammatory capacities as well.”